Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Welton Gaddy: "Preaching in an Election Year"

On March 29, Howard Payne University hosted the 5th Annual Currie-Strickland Distinguished Lectures in Christian Ethics. C. Welton Gaddy, president of the Interfaith Alliance and pastor of Northminster (Baptist) Church in Monroe, Louisiana, presented a lecture entitled "Preaching in an Election Year."

Gaddy began by stating, "a good minister does the same thing in an election year as in any other year." He then went on to describe good preaching as "timely more than timeless. A person reading your sermon years later should be able to identify the time period in which it was preached." Then he added that a good preacher prepares a sermon with the members of his/her particular congregation in mind. "Application of truths should be local."

Acknowledging that the country is today sharply divided along both political and religious lines, Gaddy said that "the Gospel must have something to do with reconciliation and cooperation."

He expressed grave concern over preachers who "are willing and ready to be used for political purposes and narrow sectarian values" and who "violate tax law by endorsing candidates from the pulpit."

The constitutional prohibition against political endorsements from the pulpit and the use of church funds on behalf of political candidates, he said, "is not a prohibition against free speech." Rather, he continued, "it protects the integrity of the church and the independence of the government."

Then he listed a few "observations and suggestions" about responsible preaching, among them the following:
  • Partisan politics must not be confused with prophetic proclamation. He asked those gathered to imagine, for a moment, the chaos and division that would result from a church business meeting spent debating candidates for endorsement.
  • For a spiritual leader to endorse a campaign in his or her role as a spiritual leader is (a) an abuse of pastoral authority; (b) a sign of arrogance; and (c) unquestionably bad theology.
  • Seeking to endorse political candidates in church assigns undue importance to politics.
  • The responsibility of preachers is to prepare people to make responsible decisions and to respect their freedom to do so.
  • Speak on political issues as ministers informed by the Bible, not as experts on economics or foreign policy. Ministers must function out of their primary identity.
  • Speak out of the whole of the Bible, not just selected portions that appear to support a partisan agenda; give special weight to Jesus.
  • In political preaching, deal with values, issues, and principles - not personalities.
  • As you stress the importance of political activism, don't overemphasize the importance of politics.
We should have, he concluded:
  • a secular government that is appreciative of religion and obedient to Article 6 of the Constitution
  • religious leaders speaking prophetically on moral issues
  • political activity but no tests of faith that are based on political loyalty
  • the right of the electorate to know how the candidate's religious beliefs will affect his or her public policy
  • the candidate's pledge to uphold the Constitution even when it conflicts with his or her religious beliefs or else resign his or her office


  1. Weldon, this was great and I agree 100% but do have a question about the next to last statement "... right to know how candidate's religious beliefs affect his or her public policy."
    By the way I am from Monroe and sis is in your church. Camille Petersen.

    1. Camille,

      I'm the one who wrote the post about Welton's lecture.

      What he was saying was that, although there should be no religious test for public office, if a candidate's religious beliefs have a direct influence on how he/she will carry out their responsibilities as an elected official, the electorate has a right to know that.

      I can also point you to a letter that Welton sent last year to all presidential candidates - - in which he wrote, "Voters have the right to know whether candidates will respect the boundaries between institutions of religion and government, as well as the role a candidate’s faith will play in creating public policy, and how a candidate will balance the principles of their faith with their pledge to defend the Constitution, particularly if the two conflict."

      I hope this answers your question.